Perelandra – Chapter Seventeen (Part 1)

SUMMARY

This (somewhat overwhelming) chapter consists of the “coronation” of the King and Queen. The Oyarsa of Perelandra hands over her share of dominion of the planet to them. They honor her and ask her to remain with them for a time as an adviser. They honor Ransom and thank him for his work against the Un-man. Then they converse making very high statements of praise to Maleldil. Finally it comes time for Ransom to leave. He gets into his “coffin,” is bid farewell and begins his journey back to the Silent Planet.

SCI-FI ASPECT

A short word on his travel back to Earth. He uses the same form of transportation. His eyes are covered with just the Perelandrian flowers. When he arrives on Earth – way back in chapter two – there is no mention of a piebald appearance. The only explanation for this that I have is a narrative inconsistency.

Later the King, Tor, speaks of the “Dark Lord” of Thulcandra and of making war against him and freeing Thulcandra from his grip (182). An interplanetary war falls within the realm of science fiction, but here it also falls within the realm of what we may call eschatology or the study of the last things. Notable is how the King calls it the beginning, and this is reminiscent of the conclusion of Lewis’ The Las Battle (which had not yet been written) where all that has taken place in the Chronicles and on Earth is only the title page of a great story yet to unfold.

METAPHYSICAL

There is much here and I doubt I’ll do it justice. With that, lets begin:

“There was a great silence on the mountaintop… (177).” Much is happening on Perelandra in this chapter that is grand beyond words. How can one set up something like this? How can one get across to his readers the gravity and profundity of the situation. The eschatology of Perelandra is unfolding in the crowning of the King and Queen, under the Great Heavens, attended by all their subjects, great creatures of the heavens and one blood-washed image bearer of Maleldil the Young. Revelation 8:1 tells us “When the Lamb opened the seventh seal there was silence in heaven.” When the seventh seal was opened all heaven held its breath. None spoke. There was silence. Here, also, the gravity of the event can be met appropriately only with silence.

Ransom breaks this silence. His words honor the King and Queen of Perelandra, but also Adam and Eve in their sinless state. So great these creatures were, before the fall, we would respond with silence and with longing for their presence. Lewis tells us that before these two we would be tempted to commit idolatry. The face bears the image of its Creator so well, so perfectly and yet “it could never be taken for more than an image…the very beauty of it lay in the certainty that it was a copy, like and not the same” (178). Its wonderful that it reflects so perfectly and its wonderful because it is clearly a reflection of something much greater.

What is going on here is picked up mid-sentence from Oyarsa Perelandra. She is turning over all control of the planet to the King and Queen, she lists several physical traits of the planet along with its animal life and “waves whom yet you know not” (177). Waves previously described the passage of time and, more specifically, the events that time brings with it.

Living on the Fixed Land (179). Here, the Green Lady, the Queen of Perelandra, gives an account, her understanding, of the law, the prohibition against living on the Fixed Land. She explains that the reason to live there would be so that she could control where she would be when she arose the following day. In doing that she would be saying to Maleldil – I don’t want to be where you would carry me over the waves on the floating land. I want to be where I choose to be. “Not thus but thus,” she explains, to control her life by her own power instead of living in and trusting and loving the power of Maleldil.

With this understanding, breaking this prohibition (which seemed at first to me quite whimsical and arbitrary) is not dissimilar to breaking Adam and Eve’s commandment. They were told to obey God and not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They decided they would set up their own law. They would decide for themselves what was good and what was bad and they would live by their own wisdom instead of the wisdom of Elohim.

If they stopped trusting Maledil, then, as the Queen put it, “how could we ever have climbed back into love and trust again?” (179).

The knowledge of good and evil (179). Further, the King, goes on to point out that he know understands evil. He has come to understand it, “though not as the evil one wished us to learn.” He has gained wisdom that includes and understanding of evil but not in a way that requires participating in it. Participating in it helps you understand it in one way, but blinds you to what it truly is. I am reminded of Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes. He seemed to gain an understanding of all that is empty by throwing himself into the emptiness completely. The King’s understanding of emptiness is greater than Solomon’s understanding. It reflects the way in which God understands evil, by seeing it and all its effects from outside and not from within.

Maleldil… His Father… Third One (180). The Trinity. Maleldil, the Second Person has been made much of. His Father was mentioned in OOTSP but I don’t recall mention thus far in Perelandra. Here we add in the Third Person. It is a cursory summation, to be sure. But all three of the Trinity are touched upon here, further girding the Christian worldview present throughout the Trilogy.

The King’s Prophecy (181-183). The King’s prophecy bleeds into what we would call our Eschatology, our study of “Last Things,” as Ransom so astutely points out. There are three major divisions here:

The first is of the King speaking of the rise of his own people on Perelandra. The crux of it being: “We will fill this world with our children. We will know this world to the centre.” This is a fairly reasonable restatement of God’s initial command to Adam and Eve – to fill the Earth and to have dominion over it. Reigning dominion involved naming things and we see the King doing that here.

He also plans to “make the nobler of the beasts so wise that they will become hnau and speak.” This is similar to the talking animals of Narnia which Lewis would later write about. It strikes me as odd and not something mankind should undertake upon earth. I suppose the serpent spoke to Eve. Genesis doesn’t tell us that she was taken aback. Maybe animals spoke before the fall, but I doubt that very much. This epoch will last ten thousand years and end with tearing open the “sky curtain” or Perelandra’s cloud-cover so that “Deep Heaven will become familiar to the eyes” of the children of the King and Queen. How this would be done I do not know but it is a long time hence. Patience.

Second, there will be a changing in the physical bodies of the people of Perelandra, for it is “Maleldil’s purpose to make us free of Deep Heaven.” It seems that they will take on some type of spiritual or more ethereal bodies and not be Perelandra-bound, but more spiritual as the eldila are. This seems not so different from the biblical description that we should be changed in the twinkling of an eye. We shall be made different. Christ’s body was different in some ways following the resurrection. The glorified bodies, as we would say, seem to be what the King here has in mind. (Though I may be way off here. Speculation.)

Last, he has plans for Thulcandra. He plans to end “the siege” of Earth, to remove the “black spot.” He plans to rend the moon and at least temporarily to darken the sun so it is not seen from Earth. This is not unlike some interpretations of some of the biblical prophecies regarding what are thought of as the end times. There are different ways to view these prophecies but this description seems in line with the Pre-Millennial view.

He refers to everything that has happened up until that point as “before the beginning.” Ransom explains here that we think of this as the end. The King considers it more of a false start before the real story is begun. This again is similar to the as yet unwritten Chronicles of Narnia, wherein the final story, The Last Battle, ends by explaining that everything that has taken place so far is merely the first page of a much grander story.

All this he calls “the beginning of the Great Game, the Great Dance” and admits “I know little of it yet” (183).

PROPOSED CHAPTER TITLE

The Revelation

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